Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I am very surprised this post is directly after my Pre Reading post. This book is nicely divided into 3 parts, but I did not stop after each to write an entry because I pretty much read more than half the book in two sittings, one on the way to on a field trip and one on the way back.

I am very glad this was not the final cover. The size of Elisa is a big part of the story. The cover with the face in the gem is better because less is revealed.

SPOILERS abound.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was an epic with a protagonist that grows and becomes a more rounded person. Those are my kind of novels. It reminded me of many other epic fiction, from Star Wars to Avatar: The Last Airbender. When I first started reading this novel, I hated all the names. They had unusual spellings and I could not remember who was who or what was what. By the end, the uniqueness of the naming added. It gave the feel of a whole new world.

Going into this novel, I was doubty on how the religious aspect would play out. I enjoyed where it went. The biggest thing that was weird to get to was the use of God and His, Him, etc. Although it is named the same as the Christian God, it is a completely fiction world with completely fiction religions. After finishing this novel, I want to know more about the religion. The origin of her godstone wasn't well explained. Was it present before her naming ceremony? What do the Invierne believe? (I hope I spelled that correctly since I don't have my book here to check).

I loved the way image and body was done. I really enjoy noncaucasian fantasy worlds. I am not certain, but I think all the characters from Elisa's kingdom/nation were dark skinned. They definitely all had black or dark hair. I did not realize dark hair redded in the sun. The Invierne were described as colorful because they had all shades of hair. The animagus were also portrayed well, with their catlike blue eyes and light skin and hair.

The relationships were dealt with perfectly. I also really liked that both of her potential love interests died. All the characters had enough depth for what they were needed for. I want to know more about the past bearers. I really liked the way their destinies may still be fulfilled long after their deaths. The past bearers reminded me of the past avatars in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I want MORE! There have been many books recently that once I have finished I discover a sequel is in the works and I deem it unnecessary. In this case, I want a sequel now!

I will give this a 4.5/5. It was excellent on so many levels. I am looking forward to the sequel.

I guess I will now wait for Ashley to finish her October pick and continue to read A Clash of Kings, which will take me until the end of the year probably unless I suddenly get a lot of free time.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paul's October Pick: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. Elisa is the chosen one. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn't die young. Most of the chosen do.

Why?: This was another random find in store. I should stop buying books spontaneously like this though. This book was almost half the price I paid on Amazon. I need to remember to check Amazon! So, I don't know much about this book. I hadn't heard any hype before discovering it in the store. I have since watched the author's video on Amazon and I am still intrigued. I enjoy YA royalty novels. 

Expectations: Religion has been mentioned in the descriptions of this novel and I am hoping it isn't something too preachy. I am interested how the main character is chosen as the chosen one. I am expecting character growth by the end, but this is, like all current novels, the first in a trilogy. I hope enough is brought to conclusion. 

Judging a book by its cover: I like the font of the title. I also like how there is a face within the gem. The colors and bushes/leaves around the cover make me think some of the novel will take place in some enchantedlike forest, but other covers look more like a dessert



I finally got around to finishing this novel. It wasn't very long, but Fall Break got in my way.

Ashley's Pre Reading
Ashley's Review
My Pre Reading

Of course, Ashley has read this whole series so I must refrain from reading her other posts. I felt that this novel was just the beginning of a longer, larger story. I haven't read the rest of the series, but maybe it would have benefited to be one 500 page book rather than three 200 page books. There are so many questions I want answered. How was the dead blind lady in a dream helping after she died? I want to know more about her. The Captain even mentioned her by name. 

I did enjoy the style of McMann's writing. She dealt with Janie being pulled into dreams well. Some of the story seemed pushed, but overall it had a nice flow. Like Ashley said, the relationship wasn't forced. The two of them went through some rough times until Janie learned the truth. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series, but I have no idea when I will do that. Possibly some day I have a few hours of free time. I should probably blog about my October pick so I don't fall too far behind. Thankfully I am posting this and Ashley won't be kicking blue off the homepage.

I would give this novel a 3/5


Monday, October 10, 2011

October Pick: The Gates

And now, time for my October pick!

Title: The Gates
Author: John Connolly
Year Published: 2009

Synopsis: A strange novel for strange young people. Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Halloween. Which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Avenue. The Abernathys don't mean any harm by their flirtation with Satanism. But it just happens to coincide with a malfunction in the Large Hadron Collider that creates a gap in the universe. A gap in which there is a pair of enormous gates. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out ...Can Samuel persuade anyone to take this seriously? Can he harness the power of science to save the world as we know it?

Why?: I was walking through Barnes & Noble looking for a book to read, and I came across this one. It sounded interesting, and it is also focused around Halloween. Since it's October, I think a Halloween book is very fitting!

Expectations: I expect this book to be very... strange. I don't think anything will make much sense (the Large Hadron Collider is a part of it, after all). I do expect to be very entertained though, as I think Connolly will incorporate random things into a humorous story that actually makes sense. I've never actually read anything by Connolly though, so I could be sadly mistaken.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has two gates that kind of look like the devil, as well as a boy and his dog. I assume the boy is Samuel Johnson, and I think that he will find the gates of Hell. Also, since the gates are surrounded by a town, I assume the gates of Hell open up in the middle of Samuel's neighborhood.


The Nine Lives of Chloe King

I was going to make this book my October Pick, but decided that I wouldn't pick an entire trilogy as my pick. So until my October book comes in on Wednesday, I'll be reading this book and trying to get through some more of Wizard's First Rule. 

Also, this is all three books... so the all of the information  for the entire thing and the individual books is included below. I apologize for the long post.

Title: The Nine Lives of Chloe King
(Includes: The Fallen, The Stolen, The Chosen)
Author: Liz Braswell (writing as Celia Thomson)
Year Published: 2004, 2004, & 2005 respectively. The collection I have was published in 2011 though.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King: Chloe King is a normal girl. She goes to class (most of the time), fights with her mom, and crushes on a boy…or two. But around her sixteenth birthday, Chloe finds that perhaps she isn’t so normal after all. There’s the heightened night vision, the super fast reflexes – oh, and the claws. As she discovers who she is – and where she comes from – it is clear she is not alone. And someone is trying to get her. Chloe has nine lives. But will nine be enough? Even curiosity can't kill her.

The Fallen: Chloe King was a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She did her homework and got good grades, but she wasn't afraid to ditch class sometimes to hang out with her best friends. She slept at home, but otherwise avoided all human contact with her mom. The usual stuff. Then she fell from San Francisco's highest tower, and her life changed. For starters, she died. And then, she woke up. Now Chloe's life is anything but normal: Suddenly guys are prowling around her, she's growing claws, and someone's trying to kill her. Luckily for Chloe, she still has eight lives to go.

The Stolen: She argues with her mother. She occasionally skips class. And she alternately crushes on two totally different boys. But Chloe King is by no means your typical teenager. The girl can scale buildings and see in the dark. Sometimes, at night, she even likes to leap from rooftop to rooftop. Yes, Chloe has the instincts and ability of a cat. And that makes her unique indeed. It also makes her a wanted woman. Because the Order of the Tenth Blade does not deal kindly with people like Chloe. It stalks them. Preys upon them. And wants many of them -- like Chloe, for instance -- dead.

The Chosen: CHLOE KING MAY BE THE ONE. Despite a rocky few weeks, Chloe King is starting to get it. She's figured out who she is (a girl with catlike superpowers), where she belongs (at home with Mom), and what she wants to do (chill with her friends). Yes, she's got funky superpowers, and yes, two rival groups think she's some "chosen" leader. But no, she's not buying all that ancient-warrior crap. And she's definitely not developing a superhero alter ego like in those old comic books. For Chloe, being the One means she can have whatever she wants -- i.e., more goof-off time and fewer "cat people" conventions. Then she finds her friend bleeding in an alley. All at once Chloe realizes that the years of bloodshed are not over. In fact, they never will be. The Mai and the Tenth Blade are going to persist in their dangerous rivalry. Unless Chloe accepts her destiny -- and takes control.
Why?: ABC Family picked up the novel to be a new TV series, and it looked intriguing, to say the least. I figured the books would be better than the show (since that was definitely the case with Pretty Little Liars, although the show is good if you haven't read the books). I looked up the books on Amazon, and found this collection for like $8 and couldn't really pass it up. I've had it for a couple of months and haven't gotten around to reading it yet, so I figure now is as good a time as any.

Expectations: I expect this to be a supernatural teen romance novel, dealing with the normal problems of a 16 year old girl... as well as the not-so-normal problems of a 16 year old girl who is also the chosen leader of the Mai. Cat-like powers are always cool though, so I expect to be entertained most of the time and annoyed with stupid teenage problems for only a small amount of the time. I don't expect it to be a difficult read since ABC Family picked it up.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover of the book I have is mostly white and has a girl's eyes that are very cat-like. The cover makes me think that the book is about a girl who has cat-like powers and eventually starts to look like a cat.


Art has a saving magic of its own.

 I enjoy when Paul doesn't post often, because then I can try and kick his posts off of the front page. Except this is the last post I need to catch up on, so that probably won't happen anytime soon.

Here are the links for the other posts about this book, in case you missed them:
Ashley's Pre-Reading

First of all, this book was definitely NOT "Hunger Games meets Harry Potter" as the cover suggests. I think that kind of quote on the front puts very high expectations on a book, and this one does not live up to that. Maybe "The children's version of Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." The only similarity to the Hunger Games is that the world is a dystopian society, and children "die." Except they actually do die in the Hunger Games and here, a Dumbledore-like character saves them and puts them in a magical world.

Secondly, although I went into this book with low expectations since it's a middle-grade novel, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the style of writing. Although it was very different from the other McMann novels that I read in September, I thought that this book flowed nicely and didn't have too many sections that dragged. If I had a 7 or 8 year old child, I think s/he would be able to read this book and not have too many problems with the sentence structure or the vocabulary. Although the novel did switch between Alex and Aaron a few times, I liked that most of the novel was from Alex's viewpoint. His world was, after all, more interesting than Aaron's.

The parallelism between Alex & Aaron and Justine & Marcus was a nice twist on an otherwise straightforward plot. Although I could definitely see that coming way before it was officially announced, I'm not sure that a young reader would have been able to figure it out. I think that it was hidden well enough for the intended audience to be pleasantly surprised, but not too hidden so that it's impossible to figure out on your own. 

I do have to agree with Paul that the characters were underdeveloped. Although this was a middle-grade book, that doesn't mean the characters don't have to have depth. It's not a "My First Reader" book. The romance between Lani and Alex is only briefly mentioned, and I think that it could have been expanded on a little bit. Also, the relationships between both sets of twins, as well as Alex's relationships with his friends, were very shallow. Aaron is only portrayed as the "bad" twin, and although he has a minimal amount of creativity, he refuses to use it or admit it. He, and Justine for that matter, apparently have no good qualities. Although there are people like that in movies and novels, I feel like McMann could have developed them a little bit more and had them show at least a little more weakness. 

Also, the cover artist needs to learn what a cheetah is. That thing looks like a panther/lioness with wings. 

Overall, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to someone who likes YA novels. Instead, I'd give it to a 6-10 year old to read. If I had to rate it out of 5 though, I would probably give it about a 2.5/5. I thought that it was fairly well written for being a middle-grade book, but that it could definitely have used some improvement. 


Thursday, October 6, 2011

"I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."

Since it's October, I suppose I should get around to writing reviews of the books I've already read so that I can start my October pick.

I really enjoyed Divergent. Although the whole "let's all write trilogies about dystopian futures!" thing is kind of getting old, I like the way Roth tackled the subject. It actually reminded me a little bit of Delirium. Roth chose to have it set in a futuristic, dystopian Chicago, and I think that helps readers (especially US readers) feel more connected to the novel. It's not like a totally different world in a parallel universe where this could never happen. Although it's completely unlikely, this could still possibly happen at some point in the very distant future.


Roth's characters are very relateable, I thought. Beatrice/Tris struggles with being Divergent and still trying to fit in within her new faction. She also struggles with relationships with peers, leaders, and her family. None of her new friends were from Abnegation and so have had different values instilled in them throughout their upbringing. Which I actually think was a pretty cool thing for Roth to do. This way, Tris can see things from different viewpoints, and I think it helps her to be around others who have given up their families and everything they've ever known to try and become members of the Dauntless faction. 

The differences between Eric and Four/Tobias and Tris' relationships with them were also presented very well, I thought. Eric is constructed as the ruthless leader, who cares only about obtaining as much power as he possibly can. He uses brute strength and fear to get his way,  and doesn't care who he hurts in the process. Tobias, on the other hand, has a completely different idea of bravery. As a previous member of Abnegation himself, Tobias believes that bravery requires more than just overcoming your fears. For him, selflessness is a form of bravery, and he helps Tris by helping her come to this realization himself. Though he appears to taunt her, he's actually trying to help her continue to stand up for herself and for her friends. Of all the characters that Tris interacts with, I feel that Tobias should receive most of the credit for Tris' growth over the course of the novel. I also like that the romantic relationship between Tris and Tobias wasn't the main focus of the novel, and that it kind of just happened as a result of everything else. Also, that one of Tris' fears was their relationship. I think that humanizes her, and might even help readers struggling with similar fears to realize that it's ok to be afraid. I did feel though that Four being Tobias was pretty obvious fairly early on, and that if Tris hadn't been so self-absorbed she would have also caught on.

Tris' family is another mess that I think Roth handles well.  Although Tris' mother appears to have been born and raised in Abnegation, she was actually born and raised Dauntless. Like Tris though, she is actually Divergent. Although I think it was a little too obvious that this was the case, I kind of liked that it took Tris a while to figure her mother out. I also felt like Roth constructed a mother as a mother should be - supportive and understanding of her children regardless of their choice to leave their family & friends for another faction. Tris' father, on the other hand, is kind of a jerk. I felt like he didn't really embody what it meant to belong to Abnegation, but that he was slowly getting there before he died. The fact that both of Tris' parents sacrificed themselves so that she could live and save everyone shows that they were in fact at least mostly selfless. I also liked the way that Roth created Tris' brother. Outwardly, he was selfless and seemed to belong to Abnegation. Inwardly, however, he had a thirst for knowledge that belonged to the Erudite. Although it's not explicitly mentioned, I think that Caleb might also be a little Divergent. 

The bad part about not writing these reviews as soon as I finish the book is that I can't remember what I thought about the book as I was reading it. It makes it kind of difficult to review.

I felt that the plot moved very quickly, and that there weren't any parts that were excessively slow or boring. I like Roth's writing style as well, and I think it fit very well with this novel. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy, although I feel that this could have been a standalone novel had the ending been just a little bit more conclusive. Although it could have been a standalone novel as is as well.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the dystopian YA genre. It's not quite as good as The Hunger Games trilogy, but I'm not sure that much can be compared to that. I would definitely rank this up there with Delirium. Also, since Paul feels the need to implement a rating system, I'll use one too. I would rate this book a 4/5 overall. It has some flaws, but for the most part it was a very good read.